The Border

Last weekend along with a friend I had the chance to drive along the southern border of the United States, where the Colorado River — seen here — is sometimes the dividing line.  And frankly the experience was troubling.  Let me explain.

The reason I was near the border is that I went off roading with some friends in the Yuma Arizona area.  Off roading is something that I am just getting into.  And I mean that I am putting only my little toe into it.  nothing more at this time.  But that is a topic for another blog at another time.

On Sunday, the day after off roading on Saturday, I wanted to see the border up close.  So we drove down to San Luis, Arizona, about 20 miles south of Yuma.  Not content to just see the border crossing from a distance, and not content to see “the wall” from a distance we find a way to drive off paved roads right up to the wall.

No one else is in this area.  In fact, there is nothing between the wall and the nearest street with homes, some two football fields away.  The ground right by the wall is desert dirt and sand, but obviously has been trafficked often, presumably by Border Patrol vehicles.

The first thing that really impresses me is “the wall.”  It is significant to say the least.  It is very sturdy looking.  It is rust colored.  It is also very “open” in the sense that there is a space between each piling.  The space is not wide enough to allow an individual to squeeze through, but wide enough so that you can see through it.

It is also very, very high.  Seemingly insurmountable.  And it does not have razor wire anywhere.  In short, it does not look like a prison wall.  No, it looks like a fence.  Admittedly, a significant one.  This, for sure, is no white picket fence.  (I regret that I did not get a photo of the wall at this location.)

The second thing that gets my attention are the number of Border Patrol vehicles.  Driving up to one that is stationed right next to the wall at one point, I roll down the window and strike up a conversation.  The officer has worked for the Border Patrol for some 20 years.  He tells me he has seen everything.  He seems really tired and really resigned to what he describes as a constant effort of people to scale the wall to get into the United States. (and for obvious reasons I did not think it a good idea to take a picture of the Border Patrol guy in his vehicle.)

To further describe the scene, we are only a few hundred yards from the official Border Crossing.  There are scores of people coming across the border, being permitted to enter the US.  At the same time, scores of people are going across the border into Mexico.  It is a daily occurrence.  This is not a tourist location whatsoever.  Presumably the individuals going across the border both ways each day are doing so for work related or family reasons.

Nevertheless, just a few hundred yards away individuals are trying to find ways to scale the wall to get into the US without going across the border at the formal checkpoint, manned by US and Mexican officials.

The wall looks very intimidating to me, seemingly insurmountable.  So, I ask the Border Patrol agent does anyone get over the wall?   My guess is no.  no one can surmount the wall.  To my surprise, he just laughs at me.  He tells me that the people coming over the wall have days to think about how to do it.  they are very ingenious.  And, yes, they do get over the wall!   I am shocked.  I forgot to ask him about tunnels.

My curiosity is still not satisfied, so we drive along the border going north from San Luis, along the Colorado River, towards California.  and, as we move further north, the wall is shorter than the one we saw before, and it does have razor wire draped all over the top of it.

Again, I find myself being shocked.  What do we find?   A gap in the wall.  An opening for no apparent reason.  We stop and get out of our vehicle and just watch what is going on.  And wow, what an experience.

We are looking across the Colorado River towards Mexico’s town of Algodones, a favorite destination for many Americans who want to get their dental work done at far less cost than is possible in the States.  We see border patrol cars going back and forth from time to time.  Then two additional Border Patrol vehicles arrive, park and get out with a dog.  Quickly, we realize that we have a “situation” occurring right in front of our eyes.

Sure enough, the dog enters the underbrush along the Colorado River and the two Border Patrol agents follow.  Within a few minutes they return to their vehicles with a family in tow.  A father, a mother and a 6 year old son.  And this is in the middle of the day.  This is not at night, but in broad daylight.


The family take their seats on the back of the Border Patrol truck as the vehicle takes off presumably to return them to Mexico, or to detain them.  I don’t really know what they do with the ones they catch trying to cross the border.

The events of the day raise so many questions in my mind.

  • Understanding our immigration goals, policies, implementation procedures
  • immigrants that are legal versus illegal (i.e., entering the US without permission)
  • migrants that are needed for filling worker shortages in the US
  • the impact of separating children from parents at the border
  • the recent increase in unaccompanied children crossing the border
  • how we are detaining the children and in what conditions (food, water, shelter, medical, etc)
  • migrants vs asylum seekers and refugees
  • how local communities like Yuma are able to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens when 6,000+ new migrants came into the city between Oct 1 and Nov 30, for example
  • really understanding the push factors and the pull factors that are driving the significant increase in the number of people wanting to cross the border
  • how are we dealing with the Covid related issues with the people who cross the border every day, with the children being detained, and with the illegals crossing
  • which government agencies have responsibility for what pieces of the immigration/border issues

Oh my goodness!  And this is just a beginning list of questions.

This is a real problem (some might say, crisis) that most of us don’t see and experience every day.  But, when you are in Yuma or more specifically, in a border town like San Luis, you really see it up close and personal.

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